NYCC 2018: Valiant Beyond Promises Character-Driven Adventure, Mind-Bending Exploration & Rai!?

by Noah Sharma

Valiant closed out the third day of New York Comic Con with a look at their new Valiant Beyond initiative, assembling Vita Ayala (Livewire), Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel (Incursion), Karl Bollers (senior editor), and Joseph Illidge (executive editor).

The first question for the panel was, simply enough, “What is Valiant Beyond?” Joe Illidge thinks that this is the moment for Valiant to expand and to elevate characters who have played a part in other people’s stories to A-List status. The ‘Beyond’ is going beyond the limits that you might have placed on a Valiant comic.

We then got to hear everyone’s Valiant origin stories.

Ayala met Joe Illidge when he was working at Lion Forge and the two immediately knew that they wanted to work together. The opportunity arrived when Valiant decided to give Livewire a series. Ayala has loved the character for a long time and Secret Weapons is one of their favorite comics of the last five years, so they jumped at the chance.

Shadowman #10 Cover C by Sainasix

Illidge loved Valiant Comics back in the day, but his introduction to the Valiant Entertainment incarnation actually came through DC. A huge fan of Vertigo’s Unknown Soldier, Illidge was baffled when writer Joshua Dysart was tapped to write Harbinger. The match was so crazy that Illidge had to try it and that hooked him.

Diggle had been talking about working with Valiant for a long time but it was Shadowman that made him feel that he needed to pitch. He really wanted to redeem Jack Boniface and give him the chance to be a hero again. Diggle acknowledges that he’s a “slightly square, white, British guy” writing a black voodoo hero, but he’s passionate about the material and he want to make Jack earn his way back. He also loves Alyssa Miles and wants to make her level up, even pitching a spin-off on the panel!

Paknadel first connected with the company in the Waid/Ellis era, but he too was drawn into the current incarnation by Dysart’s work. Paknadel and Diggle have been close friends for years, but they’ve never actually collaborated on something so when Diggle invited him to cowrite a Valiant book he jumped at the chance. “Alex is the smartest person I know,” said Diggle.

Bollers met Warren Simons at Marvel and they shared a desire to do deeper, more character-driven superhero stories. So later Simons invited him to come work at the company. Bollers feels that the Valiant characters have ambiguity and darkness in their hearts and their backgrounds that sets them apart from other superheroes. Illidge added that he thinks that their heroes are not defined by their powers. All of them are the same people with or without their powers.

Livewire 1 Cover A by Adam Pollina

Ayala feels that Livewire is one of the most complex characters in the Valiant Universe. Ayala connects to her empathy and the degree that her story allowed her to connect with that. Livewire is going to have to deal with the consequences of her actions in Harbinger Wars II. That empathy means that she has to reckon with what she’s done.

The series will launch this December as a brand new ongoing with art by Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín.

Incursion Lineart by Doug Braithwaite

Diggle thinks of Incursion a supernatural take on the alien invasion story. The event miniseries begins in february with art Doug Braithwaite. The series will dig into the relationship between Gilad and Tama and look at the role of and the reaction to the Geomancers. The panel allowed Diggle to reveal that the Imperatrix Virago would be the main villain of the story as she tries to take the power of the Geomancer for herself. Though she works in the vein of classic invasion tales, this won’t be a threat that Gilad can deal with physically. “It’s more insidious and subtle.” That threat will press on the points of distinction between Tama and Gilad. Gilad has a somewhat cavalier attitude towards murder, but Tama can talk to the dead and that’s a very big difference between them. It’s going to be a story that is really based on the characters and their interactions, but – don’t worry – a lot of things will be “made dead.”

Boller called Rising Spirit the definitive origin of Bloodshot before revealing the prototype of the first ever tempered glass variant cover for the series. Bloodshot: Rising Spirit will be written by Kevin Grevioux based on stories by Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson and illustrated by Ken Lashley with Diego Rodriguez. It also launches in December as an ongoing series.

Faith: Dreamside just launched, a miniseries from creator Jody Houser and MJ Kim and Jordie Bellaire on art. “It’s not typical for Faith to be in a horror story,” says Illidge. The titular Dreamside is a part of the Deadside “where your hopes and dream go to die”.

The Life and Death of Toyo Harada is not technically part of Valiant Beyond, but it is well loved among the panel. A prestige limited series, it will be written by clear favorite Joshua Dysart with art by a sizable team including Cafu, Mico Suayan, Butch Guice, Adam Pollina, Doug Braithwaite, and more. Life and Death picks up from the Imperium series, but also looks farther back to formative events in Toyo’s life. “It made me fall in love with Toyo Harada all over again,” said Illidge, “despite the fact that he is…you know, a sociopath.”

One fan asked if the idea of a supernatural alien invasion had led to Lovecraftean ideas being included in Incursion. Diggle hadn’t thought of it consciously, but the cosmic dread of the genre was something that he was unintentionally channelling for the Deadside. It’s something strange and unknowable, or at least on a scale too large for us.

Asked where to start at Valiant, Illidge definitely suggested The Valiant as a story that explains the cast, offers many different views on the universe, and “will break you heart at the end.”

Vita was asked about the challenges of writing such a powerful character as Livewire. They reread other stories, notably All-Star Superman, to help identify how best to find conflict in such powerful characters and the answer was, inevitably, to pit them against themselves.

Asked about the current titles, Boller refused to say whether any of them would be ending. However, Illidge made sure to remind us that Valiant’s 30th anniversary is coming up and certain characters have to be at that party, even if some are fashionably late.

The panel ended with a teaser image, hinting at a return for Rai.

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